Watching Disney’s original 1937 production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs took me way back. I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched it, but it had to be a really long time ago… I was shocked to find that I had forget about so many parts in the movie. When I think about it, all I really could remember was snippets from “Hi Ho,” Snow White cleaning the dwarfs’ cottage along with her woodland friends, taking a bite out of the witch’s poisonous apple, and awaking from her deathlike slumber to the kiss of the prince who whisks her away and places her on his regal white horse as the ride off together into the sunset. While that probably captures a large part of the film’s essence, it totally neglects the opening scene in which the prince falls in love with the rag-covered princess. It also ignores the huntsman’s entire existence, each of the dwarfs’ shining personalities, the witch’s chilling transformation, and the fact that the evil Queen is in fact Snow White’s step-mother. It was actually pretty fun to test how much I had truly remembered from the movie and to see which parts had been stored away in the corners of my memory. Here’s a walk-through of last night’s live reactions to the film.
First off, hearing the classic beginning overture automatically made me smile. I absolutely love classic movies and their opening music (think Alice in Wonderland, Sound of Music, Wizard of Oz) — their dreamlike orchestral sound accompanied by warm magical “oohs” sung by the choirs creates a wave of calm and nostalgia. It’s amazing how sounds can immediately transport you back to a specific time. Listening to the overture, I felt like a kid again, gently swaying my head from side to side along with the waltz-like beats of the overture.
I was so happy — until I heard Snow White first speak. I didn’t expect her high-pitched, saccharine voice to bother me, but it was just so annoying… Granted, I got past it and enjoyed the movie overall, however, not without a few breaks in between to keep me from losing it. I still don’t understand why she sounds so young… How can she begin her new life living in a magical castle in the clouds with her prince, let alone kiss him, if she sounds like a child? Not only does she sound like a child, but she acts like one, at times, too. When the prince first pops up out of nowhere, Snow White is at the well. Once she sees him walk towards her, she immediately runs off into her home like a child, too afraid to breathe a word or even look at him face toface. Or even when she escapes into the woods at the huntsman’s orders, she immediately loses her cool and gets lost in the forest of “wicked creatures.” The scene actually reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, where the woods took on a nightmare feel — trees came to life and floating wooden planks in the swamp became snapping alligators. After Snow White briefly weeps in the middle of the forest, the scary monsters turn out to be adorable squirrels, birds, and deer. Interesting observation: the animals all live in families with baby creatures and their parents. Does this attest to Disney’s obsession with families (happy or broken)?
Anyways, the cute talking animals lead the princess to the dwarfs’ cabin and help her tidy it up. After meeting the dwarfs, she automatically assumes control of the household, cooking dinner, baking pies, ordering the seven little men to wash their hands and dictating their bed time. This is really all she does throughout the movie, in addition to picking wild flowers in a field with the huntsman. I don’t consider myself an ardent feminist, and having a mother that was a stay-at-home mom, I truly respect home-makers and the dedication they have towards keeping the family/household intact. So I’m not going to rant about how the only thing Snow White does it take care of the seven men, because, first of all, that’s a hard job, and second of all, this WAS filmed in the 1930’s, where that was the default duty for women in society. Society didn’t hate women, that’s just the way things worked at the time, and I’m glad that such expectations have evolved into options.
On another note, I loved seeing the dwarfs develop into their own characters. While the title labels them as a group, each dwarf has his own personality, as represented by his name. It was really cute to hear Doc continually scramble his words, to see Bashful blush whenever the attention was on him, and to laugh along at Sneezy and his fits (I totally saw my allergy-plagued self in him when he sneezed at the flowers being shoved in his face!).
I also loved the yodeling dance party, it definitely contributed to the original tale’s German origins.
And my last reaction… the ending was sweet (and unrealistic. I mean, the kiss of love? Really? They barely knew each other.). But the part leading up to the kiss, the “funeral”, almost seems like a scene of veneration. A flawless Snow White is seen lying in her golden glass coffin, raised above the ground, as the rest of her friends (the dwarfs and the animals) are all bowing down as a beam of light shines upon her, and only her. While the bowing could have just been a sign of respect, the light really gives the scene a god-like feel… And yet, Snow White can’t save herself. Not sure if that means anything, just a curious thought…
Overall, I enjoyed watching Snow White again. It’s cool knowing that this was the Disney film that started it all — the princess craze as well as Disney’s animated film empire. Now that I’ve had a refresher on what the original movie was like, I think I might watch Snow White and the Huntsman for fun in the spirit of comparison. Will Kristen Stewart’s monotone be slightly more tolerable? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!